Mumbai, Oct 25: Spain rode on a brace from striker Abel Ruiz to defeat an impressive Mali 3-1 and enter the fil of the FIFA U-17 World Cup here on Wednesday.
Ruiz (19th, 43rd minutes) struck twice for Spain before half-time while Ferran Torres (71st) got the third goal. Lassa N’Diaye scored a consolation goal for Mali in the 74th minute. N’Diaye and Ruiz are now the joint second highest scorers in the tourment with six goals from six matches each.
This is the fourth time in the history of the tourment that Spain have entered the fil. However, they have never maged to win the title.
The reigning European U-17 champions lost by identical 0-1 margins to Gha and Brazil in the fils of the 1991 and 2003 editions respectively. Nigeria beat them to the title in 2007. Spain also finished third in 1997 and 2009.
It was heartbreak for Mali as they crashed out despite playing impressive football. The Africans played exciting, attacking football throughout their campaign and Wednesday’s match was no different.
Mali, who had reached the fil of the previous edition in 2015, matched their rivals move for move for the most part and it was only the superb finishing ability of Spain centre forward Ruiz that was the major difference between the two teams.
Spain created their first chance in the second minute when a cross by Ruiz from the right was deflected by the Mali defence and Sergio Gomez punched the rebound towards goal. But Mali goalkeeper Youssouf Koita pulled off a superb diving save.
Mali replied at the other end when N’Diaye hit the side netting in the ninth minute.
Spain were awarded a pelty when a mistake by the Mali defence saw an unmarked Cesar Gelabert storm into the pelty box before being brought down by Abdoulaye Diaby. Ruiz stepped forward to give Spain the lead.
That was followed by a lengthy period during which Mali domited possession with Spain creating regular chances on the counter. The best of those chances fell to Ruiz in the 33rd minute when his attempt beat the Mali custodian before missing the target by mere inches.
Spain doubled their lead shortly before the break when Ruiz latched on to a defence splitting pass from Gomez and found the target with a first time attempt.
Torres added to the Africans’ woes when he headed down a cross from Gomez to score Spain’s third goal. N’Diaye reduced the margin for Mali soon after when he neatly received a cross, saw off a Spanish defender before calmly beating the goalkeeper.
That was the only piece of celebrations the African U-17 champions eventually maged in this match as Spain held on for the win. (IANS)